Remarks by President Obama and Former President Clinton at a Campaign Event
5:57 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Hey! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) First of all, I want to thank mostly Dorothy for having us here. (Laughter.) Terry actually likes it when there are hundreds of people in his back yard. (Laughter.) And I'm delighted that their -- four of their five children are here -- Jack, Mary, Sally and Peter. Dori, their other daughter, is off playing in a national tournament in lacrosse. Jack plays rugby for the Naval Academy, where he is in his first year -- and I'm very proud of him for his service he's doing. (Applause.)
I love poor Terry McAuliffe. He's so laid back and repressed. (Laughter.) He just can't express himself. (Laughter.) I worry about him. But I tell you what, we had a hundred more like him we wouldn't lose as many elections -- (laughter) -- he is a -- and I'm grateful. (Applause.)
My job is to introduce the President. I'm going to tell you a couple of things I hope you'll remember and share with others. When you become President, your job is to explain where we are, say where you think we should go, have a strategy to get there, and execute it. By that standard, Barack Obama deserves to be reelected President of the United States. (Applause.) And I'm going to tell you the only reason we're even meeting here. I mean, this is crazy -- he's got an opponent who basically wants to do what they did before, on steroids -- (laughter) -- which will get you the same consequences you got before, on steroids. (Laughter.)
So let's be serious here. When then-Senator Obama was running for President, he laid out a forward-looking plan to restore broad-based prosperity with a 21st century economy in the United States, to advance the national security of America, and to build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries. And if he had taken office in that world and implemented those plans in energy, education, health care and across the board -- which he has done -- we'd be roaring.
But then what happened? September the 15th, 2008, we had a financial crash -- only seven weeks before the election. And it didn't bottom out till he he'd been President six months and before any of his policies had time to take effect. If you go back 500 years, whenever a country's financial system collapses, it takes between 5 and 10 years to get back to full employment. If you go back for the last 200 years, when buildings had been widely owned by individuals and companies, if there's a mortgage collapse it almost always takes 10 years. He's beating the clock, not behind it. Don't listen to those Republicans. We are beating the clock. (Applause.)
So if somebody says, well, but I don't feel all that great yet, or not everything is back yet, or it's still kind of slow yet, you just remind them we've gotten 4 million jobs since the recession bottomed out; the ones we lost in the crash have been restored. Thanks to the stimulus which kept unemployment one and a half to two points lower than it would have been. Thanks to his restructuring of the American automobile industry, which saved a million and a half jobs and created 84,000 more. (Applause.) Thanks to the astonishing agreement between labor and management and the environmental groups and the federal government to raise mileage standards on cars that will create 150,000 high-tech jobs and clean the environment for our future. These are the things that have been done.
Terry McAuliffe is moving two factories into America -- one in Mississippi, one in Virginia -- because of the manufacturing initiatives this President got the Congress to adopt to bring American manufacturing back to the forefront in the world. I'm telling you. (Applause.)
Why do I tell you this? Because somebody will say to you, maybe, but I don't feel better. And you say, look, the man's not Houdini; all he can do is beat the clock. (Laughter.) He's beating the clock. It's not going to take us 10 years to get back to full employment. When I was President, Japan went through a long real estate and financial collapse, and after 10 years they still weren't back to full employment. We are moving this country forward. We are going in the right direction under President Obama's leadership. And I'm telling you -- (applause.)
My wife has a traveling job, so I'm home alone a lot. And I have more time to read this stuff than most people. (Laughter.) So I noticed yesterday that the American people are about to get -- not counting California, our biggest state -- $1.3 billion in refunds on their health insurance premiums because the health care law says that you have to spend 85 percent of your health care premium on health care and not profits and promotions. (Applause.) Then I noticed in the paper today that, for the last two years, inflation in health care costs has been 4 percent -- the lowest two-year total in 50 years. And then I might say -- (applause.)
Folks, I spoke to a big conglomerate group that was meeting last week in a convention; they asked me to come speak. There were insurers, there were health care providers, there were all these people that -- in the health care industry. And I thought they might be hostile to me, and I just had -- I said, look, folks, I have to tell you, I support what was done; we had to do something. We were spending almost 18 percent of our income on health care, and nobody else is spending more than 12. That's a trillion dollars a year we're giving up to our competitors. One of the reasons workers have not been getting pay raises in America is their employers wanted to give them pay raises but they had to spend it on their health insurance premiums. So we have to do this.
So after it was over, they said, you're preaching to the saved -- even those of us who don't like certain provisions of the health care law would be mortified if it were repealed; we've got the train going down the tracks now. If there's something wrong with it, let's fix it; don't start all over again. And I said -- (applause.)
So whether it's on energy, where America led the world in clean energy investment in the last year even though the Chinese government spent more than we did -- our investments plus our private venture capital investment led the world. That's because of President Obama's policies -- (applause) -- or whether it's on health care, on education.
I just have to mention one more thing. One of the things that I think 20 years from now will be among the most important things he's accomplished as President that is never mentioned when I read about what's going on, is the reform in the student loan law which will let every student pay back his or her loan for up to 20 years as a small percentage of their income so nobody ever has to drop out of college again. (Applause.) And I want to tell you why that's important. (Applause.) When he took office, we had dropped -- in a decade -- from first to 15th in the world in the percentage of our young people with a college education, and we need that back. People need to be able to afford to go and afford to stay.
So I think he's done a good job. (Laughter.) I think he is beating the historical standard for coming out of a financial collapse and a mortgage collapse. I think the last thing you want to do is to turn around and embrace the policies that got us into trouble in the first place. We need to keep going forward by reelecting Barack Obama President of the United States. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) It’s always good to be in Virginia. (Applause.)
To Dorothy, most of all -- (laughter) -- but also to this guy here, Terry -- (laughter) -- I want to thank the McAuliffe family for this incredible hospitality. Jack, we could not be prouder of you. You look sharp in whites, man. (Laughter.) And to the whole family, it is a -- I’m sure Terry and Dorothy feel the way Michelle and I feel about Malia and Sasha, and the way Bill feels about -- Bill and Hillary feel about Chelsea. There’s nothing we do that’s more important than raising our kids. And when we see outstanding young people like this, it gives us a lot of satisfaction. (Applause.)
A couple of other people I want to mention. It was already noted that the next U.S. senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Tim Kaine, is here. I love Tim Kaine. (Applause.) One of the finest men I know. And just a great friend and was a great governor here, obviously.
You also have an outstanding congressman in Jim Moran in the house. (Applause.) And I need to acknowledge, because some of you know I am a former state senator, so I never pass up the chance to introduce state senators, Barbara Favola is here, and this is her district, and we love state senators. Where’s Barbara? She’s over there somewhere. (Applause.) Good to see you, Barbara. (Applause.)
Well, you guys get two Presidents for one out of this event -- (laughter) -- which is a pretty good deal. (Laughter.) And I was -- as I was listening to President Clinton speaking, I was just thinking about the remarkable record that he was able to create during his presidency, and his singular capacity -- to be able to explain very difficult concepts in very understandable terms to the American people; a master communicator. But more importantly than his communication skills was -- Bill Clinton understood at a time when, let’s face it, the Democratic Party was a little bit lost, he understood what it meant to refocus not on ideology, not on abstractions, but focus on where people live, what they’re going through day to day.
And early in our party in such a way that we were thinking about what has always been the central promise of America; the idea that if you work hard, if you play by the rules, if you’re responsible, then you can live out that basic American promise -- the idea that you can find a job that pays a decent living; and buy a home; and send your kids to school; and not have to worry, if you get sick, that you might go bankrupt; and retire with dignity and respect.
And everything he did, all the years that he was in office, was designed to give people the tools to help fulfill that promise. And he did so to a remarkable degree. Terry mentioned the record.
And ever since that time, because of Bill Clinton’s leadership, I think that when you look at the Democratic Party and what we’ve stood for, it has been squarely at the center of how the American people think and what they believe, and is entirely consistent with some of our best traditions and our deepest values.
Now, as has been mentioned, when I came into office, obviously we were experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The month I was sworn into office we lost 750,000 jobs, as I was taking the oath. We had lost 4 million jobs the six months prior, and we would lose another several million jobs before economic policies had a chance to take effect.
So a lot of what we’ve done over the last three and a half years has been designed just to right the ship to respond to crises, to make sure that Detroit didn’t go under, to make sure that the banking system was no longer locked up, to make sure that small businesses could get loans, and consumers could buy a home again or buy a car again; making sure that the system did not break down. And that took enormous amounts of energy and some pretty tough and difficult political decisions.
But I didn’t run for President simply to get back to where we were in 2007. I didn’t run for President simply to restore the status quo before the financial crisis. I ran for President because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was done being President. And for almost a decade what we had seen -- (applause) -- for almost a decade what we had seen for ordinary families was a betrayal of that basic promise; that core American idea.
The economy in fits and starts grew between 2000 and 2008, but wages and incomes flat-lined. Corporations were profitable, but ordinary people felt like they were working harder and harder just to get by. That sense of middle-class security and the notion that successive generations would do better than the previous one -- that felt like it was slipping away for too many people. That’s why I ran for President in 2008 -- to restore that basic promise. (Applause.)
And that’s why over the last three and a half years, in addition to dealing with immediate crises, what we’ve tried to do is make sure that we were finally dealing with some of those issues that had been put off and put off and put off so that once again we could build an economy with a firm foundation; an economy built to last, an economy that would deliver for ordinary Americans -- (applause) -- regardless of where they came from, what they looked like, what their last names were; that idea that you could make it here if you try.
And that’s why we took on issues like health care reform -- (applause) -- because as President Clinton said, the single most important thing to liberate our businesses, to make sure workers are getting raises, and to free ourselves from crippling debt both at the federal level and at the state level was if we started having a more sensible health care system that provided better quality for lower cost. (Applause.)
And what we’ve been able to do as a consequence -- if you look right now -- 2.5 million young people able to get health insurance because they’re staying on their parents’ plan; millions of seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs that they weren’t getting before; people being able to get preventive care, the best kind of care, instead of having to go to the emergency room; 30 million people who are going to be able to get health care who didn’t have it before -- (applause); people not having to worry if they’ve got a preexisting condition; and now we’re seeing rebates all across the country -- over a billion dollars in rebates to consumers, even as health care costs overall are going down.
On education, not only did we make college more affordable, taken $60 billion that was going to banks as middle men in the student loan program, and we were able to cut out the middle man and send that money directly to young people so that now millions more young people are either eligible for Pell Grants or getting higher Pell Grants than they were before and are able to access a college education, we put in place a $10,000 tax credit for young people -- or for their parents. (Laughter.) I know you guys are sympathetic. (Laughter.)
But we also started focusing on K-12, and how we’re going to not just -- (applause) -- how we’re going to get past this debate about reform or more money, and say we need money and reform, and let’s reform those districts and those states and those schools that are doing the right thing, and retaining outstanding teachers, and developing them. And let’s stop just teaching to the test. Let’s make sure that teachers can teach with creativity and passion, but let’s hold them accountable. And so with the help of Arne Duncan and the Secretary of Education, we are on track. Over 40 states now have adopted unprecedented reforms that are going to help us win the 21st century. (Applause.)
We refocused on manufacturing. And everybody has noted the fact that we helped to save Detroit, but here’s the good news. Detroit is building better cars. (Laughter.) Cars that folks want to drive. We’re going to be getting 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade, which will save the average driver $8,000 at the pump. And that’s part of the reason why, actually, we are now consuming -- less than 50 percent of our energy is imported; less than 50 percent of our oil is important. So there is an economic benefit, there is a security benefit.
But not only have we helped Detroit produce better cars; we’ve also created entire new industries. Advanced battery manufacturing. The key to electric cars is going to be who wins the race to make the best battery. And when we came into office, it looked like maybe 2 percent of the market was going to go to U.S. companies. Now it looks like it’s going to be 40 percent, because of what we did. We are going to be winning the race for clean energy all across the board. (Applause.)
So whether it’s our investments in clean energy, whether it’s our reform of education, whether it’s our reform of the health care system, whether it’s making sure that Wall Street is operating by the same rules so we don’t go through the same cycle that we did before, whether it’s creating a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that ensures people that aren’t getting cheated in their financial transactions -- (applause) -- what we’ve done is not just deal with crisis but also try to play the long game, and try to think what are the strategies, what are the investments that are going to help us grow over the long term, and what do we need to do to make sure that everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.
Now, I joke sometimes with my staff, a lot of what we’ve done, a lot of what President Clinton did -- there was a time when Republicans thought these were pretty good ideas. (Laughter.) No, that’s the truth. (Laughter.) I mean, you can go back to the first Republican President who comes from my home state, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, who built the first -- helped to create the Trans-Continental Railroad System, and in the midst of Civil War started the land grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences; understood the need to make investments in the future. That was not a foreign idea to the Republican Party.
There’s Teddy Roosevelt who thought it was a good idea to have a progressive income tax because he understood that the market works best -- Teddy Roosevelt was no socialist. (Laughter.) But what he understood was -- is that if you’ve got basic rules of the road in place, and you’ve got equity in the tax system, then everybody can compete, and people win based on the best ideas, not who they can prevent from competing. And you create platforms in which everybody can succeed. That was part of Republican ideas.
As recently as when President Clinton was President, when he tried to tackle health care, he had partners in the United States Senate and in the House on the Republican side who said, you know what, this is an idea that has to be tackled. We may not agree with you on every detail, but we understand that we can’t keep on spending 18 percent of our GDP on health care, and leave 30, 40 million people uninsured. That doesn’t make sense.
And it used to be a guy like a Bob Dole or a Howard Baker, if they wanted to -- you know, they were conservative, fiscal hawks -- the idea was we were going to balance a budget, and they sure didn’t like tax increases, but they understood if we’re making cuts in spending, then we also need to pay for the kind of government we want. And we’re going to do a balanced approach to how we bring down deficits.
These were not just Democratic ideas. These were American ideas. (Applause.) And part of what’s happened -- (applause) -- so part of what’s happened is we now have a Republican Party that’s unrecognizable. I’ve said this and I meant it: Ronald Reagan could not get through a Republican primary in this election cycle. (Laughter.) Could not get through it. Here’s a guy who raised taxes. That in and of itself would have rendered him unelectable in a Republican primary.
So I want to -- when you’re talking to your friends and your neighbors -- I know everybody here knows some Republicans. (Laughter.) You might be married to some. (Laughter.) Might have a mom and dad and whoever. (Laughter.) And describe for them what it is that’s at stake in this election.
When you’ve got a House Republican budget that would, on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, initiate an additional $4 trillion or $5 trillion in tax cuts that would be paid for by decimating everything that Bill Clinton talked about, everything that Terry McAuliffe talked about, everything I’ve been talking about so that the non-defense side of the budget other than Social Security would amount to less than 1 percent -- historically it’s never been under 8 percent, even under Republican Presidents. And they’re talking about taking this -- everything -- education, infrastructure, food safety, environmental protection, national parks -- whatever it is that you conceive of as part of what we do together, because we can’t do it on our own, that would be reduced to less than 1 percent of the budget. It would basically be wiped out. That’s not my opinion. That’s what they’re proposing.
And so it is impossible taking their budget, taking their philosophy, taking their approach, to imagine how we compete with China on something like clean energy. It’s impossible to imagine us being able to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our ports, our broadband lines. It’s impossible for us to imagine being able to educate our kids effectively and to produce the number of engineers that we’re going to need, the number of scientists we’re going to need, the number of mathematicians that we’re going to need.
So every election Presidents will -- or candidates will say this is the election that -- this is a crossroads, this is the biggest election in history. (Laughter.) I’m sure back in 1988, 1989, every -- you say this is -- (laughter) -- we need a bridge to the 21st century and all that. (Laughter.) Every election is the most important election in our history. (Laughter.)
But let me tell you -- (laughter and applause) -- this one matters. (Applause.) This one matters. (Applause.) This one matters. (Applause.)
And that’s before we start talking about foreign policy. (Applause.) Hillary and I -- we’ve spent the last three and a half years cleaning up after other folks’ messes. (Applause.) And by the way, we’ve got them -- we’re starting to get them pretty cleaned up. (Applause.) The war in Iraq is over. (Applause.) We’re transitioning in Afghanistan. We’ve got the strongest allies we’ve ever seen. And al Qaeda is on the ropes. (Applause.) So we’ve done what we said we’d do. (Applause.)
But when you’ve got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our number one enemy isn’t al Qaeda, it’s Russia -- (laughter) -- I don’t make that up. (Laughter.) I’m suddenly thinking what -- maybe I didn’t check the calendar this morning. (Laughter.) I didn’t know we were back in 1975. (Laughter.)
That’s before I start talking about social issues that are at stake. You know something about that in Virginia; the kinds of nonsense that’s been going on. But that’s all across the country. When you have folks who talk about -- want to repeal “don’t ask” -- repeal the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Laughter.) When you have folks who are talking about not just constraining women’s reproductive health, but questioning things like contraception as part of our preventive care.
That’s before I start talking about the fact that there are going to be some Supreme Court appointments probably if you look actuarially for the next President. (Applause.) There's so much at stake here.
So let me just close by saying this -- I've overstayed my welcome. Dorothy is saying, golly, I'm -- (applause) -- I'm trying to get these people out of this house. (Applause.) My lawn is all messed up. (Laughter.)
Let me just say this -- and I think Bill will agree with me. There's nothing more humbling, actually, than being President. It's a strange thing. Suddenly you've got all the pomp and the circumstance and you've got the helicopters and you've got the Air Force One and -- and the plane is really nice. (Laughter.) It really is. I mean, Bill may not miss being President but he misses that plane. (Laughter.) Let's face it, he does. It's a great plane. (Applause.) And I'll miss it, too. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But not yet!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: But not yet. (Laughter and applause.)
But the reason it's humbling is because you wake up every morning and you know there are folks out there still hurting, especially in what we've been going through over the last four years. Yes, you get letters or you talk to folks, and they've lost their job or they've lost their home, or they thought they were going to retire and suddenly they realize they can't, or it's a young person who has figured out, you know what, I've got to see if I can find work to help my family even though I was planning to go to college. And every day you know that there's just some portion of the country that are good and decent and working really hard, and they're still having a tough time. And you want to just be able to help each one of those people, one by one, because they're deserving of it; because they represent what's best in America. And you know that at the end of the day, no matter how hard you work, there's still going to be some stuff left undone. And you also know that you're going to make mistakes and there are going to be times where your team makes mistakes. And so your mind doesn't rest because you're constantly thinking, what else do I need to be doing?
But I'll tell you two things that keep me going. The first is -- and I'm sure President Clinton agrees with this -- you get no better vantage point of how wonderful the American people are than when you're President of the United States. And as you're traveling around the country, the resilience and the strength and the core decency of the American people inspire you. And you say to yourself, you know what, no matter what we're going through right now, we're going to be okay. We're going to figure this out because that's who we are and that's what we do. No matter how times -- how tough times are -- in fact, maybe especially when times are tough, we full together and we figure it out.
And the other thing that gets you through is -- or at least gets me through is -- I said back in 2008, I'm not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect President; Michelle will confirm that. (Laughter.) But I made a promise that I'd always tell people what I thought, I'd always tell people where I stood, and I'd always wake up every single day working as hard as I could on behalf of you. And that promise, I can say, I've kept. And I can look in the mirror and say that I've kept that promise. (Applause.)
And so if you're willing to join us and finish what we started in 2008, and continue what Bill Clinton was doing when he was President of the United States, and if you are willing to share that vision of what America can be, I guarantee you we won't just win this election, we're going to make sure that we remind this world of ours just why it is America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
6:31 P.M. EDT